The man who introduced Barack Obama in Poland on Friday was found by a judge to have violated “trade secrets” from a previous employer and owes $515,218 to that company.
Daniel Potkanowicz of Poland described himself as a once unemployed mill worker who now works for Summer Garden Food Manufacturing in Boardman.
Potkanowicz along with Michael Angelilli, a former partner, and their company, Michael Daniel Corp., have not paid any money to Clearview Window & Door of Youngstown despite the Feb. 3, 2009, decision by visiting Judge Thomas P. Curran of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Angelilli’s bankruptcy filing in June 2010 halted any payment by him, Potkanowicz and their company, which went out of business shortly after the court ruling.
Potkanowicz told The Vindicator on Friday that Michael Daniel Corp. went out of business in 2009 because “we sort of ran out of money,” and not because of the successful Clearview lawsuit.
Richard Albright, Clearview’s owner, said Michael Daniel went out of business because of the court decision.
Richard Rohrbaugh, the attorney who represented the defendants, also said the court decision “put them out of business.”
When asked to comment on the Clearview case, Potkanowicz said, “That’s part of my life I really don’t want to go into. I’m not really talking about that.”
Potkanowicz said the Obama campaign selected him after asking management at Summer Garden — a Boardman company that the president visited before an invitation-only rally at Dobbins Elementary School in Poland — about the concerns of some of the plant’s employees.
“That’s how I got” to introduce Obama, he said. “I spoke to [campaign officials] on the phone, and they liked my story.”
Jessica Kershaw, an Obama spokeswoman, declined to comment specifically about the vetting process that led to Potkanowicz’s selection.
“I’m wondering who put him up there” with the president, Albright said. “He was involved in a scandal, and he’s introducing the president.”
Albright also questioned how Potkanowicz could be called a formerly unemployed mill worker. Potkanowicz’s attorney said his client was a former “wood mill worker” because of his time at Clearview.
Potkanowicz said he works in Summer Garden’s maintenance department, repairing machines.
Potkanowicz was Clearview’s plant manager for about 15 years before being fired in late 2002 for failing to meet company expectations, Albright said.
Angelilli quit in early 2003, and Alfred Boggia quit shortly thereafter, Albright said.
Clearview makes specialized window and trim products. The three former Clearview employees created their own company providing the same products.
Albright said the three stole engineering drawings and his company’s client list, and he sued them.
During the lawsuit, Boggia agreed to testify on behalf of Clearview against Potkanowicz , and Angelilli, and was removed as a defendant by Clearview, Albright said.
Albright said he received several calls when people saw Potkanowicz on television introducing the president.
“My legal counsel was pleased to see” that Potkanowicz is employed, and Clearview will be seeking money owed by him, Albright said.
Rohrbaugh said Friday that his clients contended the specialized window and trim product manufacturing were common knowledge and not “trade secrets.”
But “the judge disagreed with us and issued a verdict against them,” Rohrbaugh said. “We couldn’t have disagreed more with the judge’s decision.”